The German advance and the capture of Pskov by them showed what danger the government was exposing itself to by remaining in Petrograd. In Finland civil war had broken out. It was decided to evacuate to Moscow. This was essential from the organizing point of view as well. The work had to be done in the centre of the country's economic and political life.
On March 12 the Soviet Government moved to Moscow, the centre of Soviet Russia, which was at a safer distance from the frontiers and closer to a number of provinces with which closer contact had to be made.
On March 11, the day of the evacuation, Ilyich wrote an article entitled "The Main Task of Our Day," which was published in Izvestia on March 12. This article was programmatic, and at the same time strikingly characteristic of Ilyich's mood at the time.
The article begins with a quotation from Nekrasov's poem Who Can Be Happy and Free in Russia:
Thou art so pitiful,
Poor, and so sorrowful,
Yet of great treasure full,
Russia, my Mother!
Briefly, in a few pithy sentences, Ilyich deals with the significance of the great proletarian revolution, then mentions the humiliating character of the Brest peace. Further, he writes of the struggle for a mighty and abundant Russia:
"Russia will become so if she casts aside all dejection and all phrasemongering, if she clenches her teeth, musters all her forces, strains every nerve, tightens every muscle, and if she understands that salvation lies only along that road of the international socialist revolution upon which we have set foot. It is by marching forward along that road, undismayed by defeats, it is by laying stone by stone the firm foundation of a socialist society, and by working with might and main for the building of discipline and self-discipline and for consolidating everywhere organization, order, efficiency, the harmonious cooperation of all the forces of the people, and over-all accountancy and control of the production and distribution of productsthat is the way to build up military might and socialist might." (Works, Vol. 27, p. 135.)
"Since October 25, 1917, we are defencists," wrote Ilyich. "We are for 'defence of the motherland'; but that patriotic war towards which we are moving is a war for a socialist motherland, for socialism as a motherland, for the Soviet Republic, as a detachment of the world army of socialism." (Ibid., pp. 136-37.)
Now, eighteen years after this article was written, when we have advanced far along the path of socialist construction and achieved decisive victories of socialism in our country, when we are "marching through life with a song," when we can already say with full right that our socialist homeland has achieved abundance and might, when millions, with an energy and initiative unprecedented in history, are winning the goal that was so brilliantly expressed by Lenin in his article "The Main Task of Our Day"that article looks so matter of fact and natural. But one has to recollect those days in order to appreciate the full impact of that article.
Ilyich was full of energy, prepared cap-a-pie for the struggle.
At first we (Ilyich, Maria Ilyinichna and I) were put up at the National Hotel in Moscow (then called the First House of Soviets), where we had two rooms with a bath on the first floor. It was spring, and Moscow's generous sun was shining brightly. Okhotny Ryadan open marketplacebegan just outside the hotel. This was a colourful spot of old Moscow with its market stalls and shops whose owners had once knifed the students. Lots of people came to see Ilyich, many of them military men.
On March 18 the English landed a party of 400-500 marines in Murmansk ostensibly for the purpose of guarding the military stores set up there by the Entente under the tsarist government. The idea behind this landing party was clear.
At the National we were fed on English tinned meat with which the English fed their soldiers at the front. Once, during the meal, Ilyich remarked: "I wonder what we're going to feed our own soldiers with at the fronts?" Life at the National, nevertheless, was like a bivouac. Ilyich was eager to settle down in permanent quarters where he could get down to work.
It was decided to house the government offices and the principal members of the government in the Kremlin. We were to live there too.
I remember Sverdlov and Bonch-Bruyevich conducting us to the Kremlin for the first time to see our future apartment. We were allotted one in the building of the Court of Chancery. An old stone staircase, the steps of which had been worn down by the feet of generations of visitors, led to the second floor where the public prosecutor of the High Court used to have his apartment. It was planned to give us the kitchen with three rooms adjoining it which had a separate entrance, the rest of the apartment being assigned to house the offices of the Council of People's Commissars. The largest room was set aside as a conference hall (the meetings of the Council of People's Commissars of the U.S.S.R. are still being held there). Adjoining this was Ilyich's private office, which stood closer to the main entrance used by visitors. It was all very convenient. The building was in a filthy state, though; the stoves were broken and the ceilings cracked. Our future apartment was the dirtiest place of allthe caretakers had been living there. The place needed doing up.
We were given temporary lodgingstwo clean roomsin the so-called Cavalier Chambers of the Kremlin.
Ilyich liked to stroll about the Kremlin, which commanded a sweeping view of the city. He liked best of all to walk along the pavement facing the Grand Palace, where there was plenty to fill the eye. He was also fond of taking walks along the wall below, where there was lots of greenery and few people.
In one of the temporary rooms which we occupied there was an old publication lying on a table containing pictures of the Kremlin with historical notes concerning its buildings and towers. Ilyich liked to thumb through that album. The Kremlin of those days (1918) bore little resemblance to the Kremlin of today. Everything in it breathed of a bygone splendour. Next to the Chancery building was the pink-painted Chudov Monastery with its small latticed windows; by the steep bank stood the statue of Alexander II; below, nestling against the wall, stood some ancient church. Opposite the Chancery, workers were at work in the Kremlin building. There were no new squares or buildings then. The Kremlin was guarded by Red Army men.
The old army was demoralized and had been disbanded. A new army, a strong revolutionary army imbued with the spirit of enthusiasm and the will to victory, had to be built up.
At the beginning the Red Army bore little resemblance to a conventional army. It was burning with enthusiasm, but in outward appearance it was primitive. The men had no uniforms, and each one wore the clothes he had come in. There were no definite regulations or system of rules. The enemies of the Soviet power sneered at the Red Army men, and did not believe that the Bolsheviks were capable of creating a strong, well-knit army. The man in the street was scared of the Red Army soldiers, who looked like brigands to him. Adoratsky had a woman translator working for him in 1919, and when he asked her to come to the Kremlin to get some work, she did not dare to for fear of the Red Army men who were guarding the Kremlin.
Foreigners particularly were struck by the absence of the customary discipline and conduct on the part of the guards.
Ilyich told me of a visit which Mirbach paid him. The sentry outside Ilyich's office usually sat at a little table, reading a book. In those days no one saw anything peculiar in it. When peace with Germany was concluded and the German Ambassador, Count Mirbach, arrived in Russia, he paid the customary visit to the representative of the government in the Kremlinthe Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars Lenin. The sentry outside Ilyich's room was sitting and reading, and when Mirbach approached the door he did not even look up. Mirbach glanced at him in surprise. Afterwards, on coming out, Mirbach stopped next to the seated sentry, took the book he was reading, and asked his interpreter to translate the title for him. The book was a translation of Bebel's Die Frau und der Sozialismus. Mirbach returned it to the sentry without saying a word.
The Red Army men were studying hard. They realized that knowledge was needful for victory.
In passing down the corridor to his office with his hurried step, carrying an armful of newspapers, books and papers, Ilyich always had a friendly greeting for the guards. He was aware of their enthusiasm, of their readiness to die for the Soviets.
At the Seventh Party Congress (March 6-8, 1918) it had been decided to conclude peace with the Germans, albeit it was an onerous and humiliating peace. That decision had been the outcome of a bitter struggle. The speaker on the question of ratifying the peace treaty with Germany, which was examined together with the political report of the Central Committee, was Lenin, with Bukharin on behalf of the group of "Left Communists" as co-reporter. The fight was a sharp one. The congress was attended by 46 delegates with decisive votes representing 300,000 Party members. The Party in those days was not what it is nowit lacked the unity which has since been achieved. Thirty of the 46 delegates voted for the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk peace and 12 against, with 4 abstentions. In other words, about a third of the delegates were against the line of the Central Committee, against Lenin's line. Among them were many prominent Bolsheviks. On February 23 six of them announced their resignation from high posts in the administration and the Party, and reserved full freedom of agitation both within and outside the Party. On February 24 the Moscow Regional Bureau passed a resolution of no confidence in the Central Committee, refused to submit to those of its rulings which "would be connected with the implementation of the terms of the peace treaty with Austro-Germany," and in the explanatory note to its resolution declared that "a Party split in the near future is scarcely avoidable." The Moscow Regional Bureau early in 1918 acted as the organizational centre of the "Left Communists" on an all-Russian scale.
One can understand the vehemence with which Lenin opposed the "Left Communists" and their revolutionary phrasemongering. On February 21, 1918, he wrote in Pravda:
"We must fight against revolutionary phrasemongering, fight at all cost, so that it may not be said of us afterwards in words of bitter truth: 'revolutionary phrasemongering about a revolutionary war killed the revolution.' " (Works, Vol. 27, p. 10.)
Ilyich knew that the masses would back him and not the "Left Communists." The Fourth Extraordinary All-Russian Congress of Soviets was to ratify the peace treaty. The "Left Communists" were even prepared to put up with the loss of the Soviet power. In their declaration of February 24 they said: "In the interests of the international revolution we consider it expedient to consent to the possible loss of the Soviet power, which has now become purely formal." That phrase shocked Ilyich profoundly. Addressing a meeting of the Moscow Soviet of Workers', Peasants' and Red Army Deputies on March 12, he said with more than his usual vehemence and passion:
"The Russian revolution has given that which so sharply distinguishes it from the revolution in Western Europe. (My italics.N.K.) It has given a revolutionary mass, prepared for independent action by 1905; it has given Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants Deputiesbodies immeasurably more democratic than all previous oneswhich have made it possible to educate and raise the downtrodden masses of the workers, soldiers and peasants, and make them fellow our lead." (Ibid., pp. 138-39.) In the same speech Ilyich gave his appraisal of the Provisional Government and the conciliators. Referring to the February Revolution, he said:
"If the power had then passed to the Soviets, if the conciliators, instead of helping Kerensky to drive the army into the cannons' mouth, had then come forward with a proposal for a democratic peace, the army would not have been in such a ruinous state. They should have told it: stand by calmly. It should have held in one hand the torn secret treaty with the imperialists and an offer of democratic peace to all nations, and in the other hand a rifle and gun, and the front should have been fully preserved. That is when the army and the revolution could have been saved." (Ibid., p. 139.)
Now, when our Red Army, equipped according to the latest word of science, stands by calmly, strong and organized, these words of Lenin's sound so near and familiar to every conscious citizen of our great country! But then, at the Fourth Extraordinary All Russian Congress of Soviets, which took place on March 14-16, Ilyich, addressing the representatives of the Soviets with the same deep earnestness and sincerity with which he always addressed the masses, casually let fall a phrase that characterizes him as a revolutionary and fighter:
"They say we are surrendering the Ukraine, which Chernov, Kerensky and Tsereteli are out to ruin; we are told: traitors, you have betrayed the Ukraine! I say: comrades, I have seen a thing or two in the history of the revolution, more than enough to be daunted by the hostile glances and shouts of people who let themselves be carried away by their feelings and are unable to reason." (Ibid., p. 158.) Hostile glances and shouts could not deter Ilyich, not even those of his most intimate comrades. But he was only human, and these clashes with people with whom he had been so closely associated distressed him greatly; he did not sleep at nights, and his nerves were in a bad state. On this occasion, however, a split was avoided. The Fourth All-Russian Congress of Soviets ratified the peace treaty by 724 votes against 276, with 118 abstentions. This congress was attended not only by the Bolsheviks, of course. The Mensheviks, Communist-Anarchists and Right and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries voted against the signing of the peace treaty. Their representatives opposed the acceptance of the German peace terms at the meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on February 23. With 724 votes cast against 276, this meant a sweeping victory for Lenin's line.
The question of the peace treaty with the Germans having been settled, Ilyich regarded this as a respite which had to be made use of for developing the activities of the Soviet Government within the country to the utmost. He started to write his pamphlet The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government. Sverdlov was a frequent visitor of ours in the Cavalier Chambers. Seeing Ilyich at work, he persuaded him, after much argument, to use a stenographer, and sent him one of the best on the staff. Nothing came of it, though. The presence of the stenographer embarrassed Ilyich, and try as the former would to persuade Ilyich not to take any notice of him, the work made no headway. Ilyich's method of working was to write a couple of pages first, then spend a long time thinking how better to express himself. He could not do this in the presence of a stranger. Not until 1923, when he was seriously ill and could not do his own writing, did he start to dictate his articles, extremely difficult though he found it. He dictated them to Fotieva, Glyaser, Manucharyants and Volodicheva. These women had been working a long time in his secretariat and he was not so shy of them. Even so, one could often hear his embarrassed laugh through the door of his room.
Between the end of March and April 1918 Ilyich worked hard at his article The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government. It was published in Izvestia on April 28 and served as a guide to action for the Bolsheviks for years to come. Nowhere, I believe, did Ilyich deal with the main difficulties of socialist construction in our country in such a simple, vivid and striking manner as he did in that pamphlet. At the time of the October Revolution our country was a land of small-scale peasant farming. The peasant millions were steeped in the psychology of the petty proprietor, where each thought only of himself, of his own household and patch of land, and did not care for anyone else. "Each for himself, and God will take care of the rest," the peasant argued. Ilyich had written about that petty-proprietor mentality and its harmfulness dozens of times, but now that with the dismissal of the Constituent Assembly the question of power had been definitely settled and the peace of Brest made possible a certain respite, the problem of re-educating the masses and cultivating in them a new psychology, a collectivist psychology, loomed large.
The great proletarian revolution, while overthrowing the landowners and the capitalists, had at the same time opened the floodgates of petty-bourgeois instincts. The landowners' property was being seized and shared out, and increasingly used for purposes of profiteering. These petty-bourgeois passions had to be brought under control, the masses had to be re-educated, a new socialist structure had to be created, and the administration organized. During March and April 1918 all these problems absorbed Ilyich completely.
How to organize a nation-wide accounting and control, how to raise the productivity of labour, how to teach people to work, to draw the masses into public activities, make them socially alert citizens, how to reorganize work and work discipline on new linesthis is what Ilyich wrote of in The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government. He also wrote about socialist emulation in this pamphlet.
Rereading it today tells one such a lot. Today everyone understands what a tremendous role socialist emulation has played in the business of socialist construction, but at that time the question was somehow passed over (partly no doubt, on account of the civil war which commenced soon after). Socialist emulation was first widely applied on a mass scale during the years of struggle for the First Five-Year Plan, beginning approximately with 1928ten years after Ilyich had written about it.
This pamphlet contains a special chapter entitled "Raising the Productivity of Labour." Ilyich, as always, dealt with the question in all its aspects and bearing on a number of other fundamental issues.
"The raising of the productivity of labour first of all requires that the material basis of large-scale industry shall be assured, viz., the development of the production of fuel, iron, the engineering and chemical industries...Another condition for raising the productivity of labour is, firstly, the raising of the educational and cultural level of the masses of the population. This is now taking place extremely rapidly, and only those who are blinded by bourgeois routine are unable to see it; they are unable to understand what an urge towards light and initiative is now developing among the 'lower ranks' of the people thanks to the Soviet form of organization. Secondly, a condition for economic revival is the raising of the discipline of the toilers, their skill, their dexterity, increasing the intensity of labour and improving its organizationĚ" (Works, Vol. 27, p.228)
Lenin dealt with the question of raising the productivity of labour from the angle of socialist emulation problems. He pointed out in this pamphlet that the task of raising labour efficiency was a long-range problem:
"...While it is possible to capture the central power in a few days, while it is possible to suppress the military resistance (and sabotage) of the exploiters even in different parts of a great country in a few weeks, the capital solution of the problem of raising the productivity of labour requires, at any rate (particularly after a most terrible and devastating war), several years. The protracted nature of the work is certainly dictated by objective circumstances." (Ibid.)
Today, at the beginning of 1936, when we are witnessing the Stakhanov movement, when the new technics created under the First and Second Five-Year plans have given rise to a movement from below aimed at increasing labour efficiency, when we have achieved a tremendous upsurge in labour productivity, Ilyich's pamphlet The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government appears to us in a new light and strikes home with a fuller and clearer impact.
Vladimir Ilyich spoke a good deal with workers and peasants, and could not help noticing at every step an inaptitude for work, coupled with an attitude, fostered by centuries of task labour, which regarded work as a curse, as something that had to be reduced to a minimum. The revolution had done away with the bullying, swearing and driving class of foremen and bosses, and the worker was glad to be rid of them, glad to be able to sit down and have a smoke when he was tired without anyone driving him. At the beginning the factory organizations readily released the workers to attend all kinds of meetings. I remember a woman worker coming to me once at the Commissariat of Education to receive some certificate or other. During our conversation I asked her what shift she was working in. I thought she was working in the night shift, otherwise she would not have been able to come to the Commissariat in the daytime. "None of us are working today. We had a meeting yesterday evening, everyone was behindhand with her domestic work at home, so we voted to knock off today. We're the bosses now, you know." When you tell this to comrades now, eighteen years later, they hardly believe it and do not think it was typical. For early 1918, however, this was a typical case. The bosses and exploiters with their bullying foremen and driving overseers had been got rid of, but that the factory had now become public property, that that property had to be taken care of, and the productivity of labour raised, was something that had not yet been brought home to people. That is why Lenin was so emphatic about this aspect of the problem; he could face the truth when need be. The workers had to be educated to an intelligent work attitude, and all labour had to be organized on efficient lines.
Ilyich particularly showed up the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in this pamphlet. Those representatives of the petty bourgeoisie had failed to grasp the importance of practical efficient work, which they looked upon as narrow practicalness, and "gradualness" while they dreamt of a "revolutionary war," and so on.
The class on which Ilyich relied and in whose gift of leadership he implicitly believed, despite the fact that that class still had to develop and work hard at its self-improvement, was the proletariat. "The only class that can lead the toiling and exploited masses is the class that unswervingly follows its path without losing courage and without giving way to despair even at the most difficult, arduous and dangerous stages. Hysterical spurts are of no use to us. What we need is the steady march of the iron battalions of the proletariat."
With these words the pamphlet The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government ended.
It appeared as an article in Izvestia on April 28, and on April 29 Ilyich addressed a meeting of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.
To enable the workers' active of Moscow to hear Ilyich's report on the immediate tasks of the Soviet Government, the meeting was held at the Polytechnical Museum. Ilyich was greeted with a tumultuous ovation and listened to with rapt attention. Obviously, the question was one of keen interest to everybody. Ilyich spoke there with extraordinary fervour. Even today one cannot read that speech without emotion. Ilyich spoke about the distinguishing features of our revolution, the causes of its triumph, the difficulties of socialist construction in a petty-bourgeois country; he characterized our bourgeoisie and its weaknesses, urged that we should learn organization of production from the Western and American bourgeoisie, from the trust organizers; he scathingly criticized the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the representatives of the petty-bourgeois elements, criticized our "Left Communists" who had succumbed to that influence, although he still called them our friends of yesterday, today and tomorrow; he spoke about the role of the proletariat, about the influence of the petty-bourgeois element, the significance of socialist organization, and the necessity of our proletariat organizing on new linesonly then would it be capable of rallying the masses behind it.
"Until the advanced workers learn to organize the millions," said Ilyich, "they are not Socialists or creators of a socialist society, and they will not acquire the necessary knowledge of organization. The way of organization is a long way, and the tasks of socialist construction demand long hard work and corresponding knowledge in which we are lacking."
(Works, Vol. 27, p. 268.) In his speech at the Central Executive Committee on April 29 Ilyich also said that the proletariat, who had learnt discipline in big industry, would appreciate the significance of the May Day slogan which the Central Committee of the Party had put forward: "We have overcome Capital, and we shall overcome our own lack of organization." He spoke about the importance of the railways: "...Without the railways we shall not only have no socialism, but we shall all die of starvation like dogs while the grain lies right next to us," for "that is the crux of the matter, a manifestation of the most striking connection between the town and the country, between industry and agriculture, on which socialism is founded. To combine this for regular activity in the whole population, the railways are ne p. 277.)
How understandable, how familiar that speech sounds today, eighteen years after!
At that time, to be sure, not everyone had grasped its significance, but it had stirred people's minds, kindled the flame of enthusiasm among the masses.
On March 29 after the Fourth Congress of Soviets, the "Left Communists" at the head of the Moscow Regional Bureau of the Communist Party decided after all to publish their own weekly journal Communist to propound their views. The first issue, which appeared on April 20, contained the editorial "Theses on the Present Situation." Ilyich's speech at the Central Executive Committee on April 29 was largely a reply to these views. He dealt with them more fully in his articles "'Left-Wing' Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality," published in Pravda on May 9 and 11, 1918. An interesting feature of these articles was the passage concerning socialization, in which Ilyich wrote:
"We will pass to the misfortunes of our 'Left' Communists in the sphere of home policy. It is difficult to read phrases such as the following in the theses on the present situation without smiling.
"...'The systematic use of the surviving means of production is conceivable only if a most determined policy of socialization is pursued'...'not capitulation to the bourgeoisie and its servile petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, but the utter rout of the bourgeoisie and the complete break-down of sabotage.
"Dear 'Left Communists, how determined they are... but what little judgement they display! What do they mean by pursuing a most determined policy cf socialization'?
"One may or may not be determined on the question of nationalization or confiscation. But the whole point is that even the greatest possible 'determination' is not enough to pass from nationalization and confiscation to socialization. The misfortune of our 'Lefts' is that by their naive, childish combination of words: 'most determined policy of socialization' they reveal their utter failure to understand the crux of the question, the crux of the'present' situation. The misfortune of our 'Lefts is that they have missed the essence of the 'present situation,' viz., the transition from confiscation (the carrying out of which requires above all a determined policy) to socialization (the carrying out of which requires a different quality in the revolutionary).
"Yesterday, the main task of the moment was, as determinedly as possible, to nationalize, confiscate, beat down and crush the bourgeoisie and break down sabotage. Today, only a blind man could fail to see that we have nationalized, confiscated, beaten down and broken more than we have been able to keep count of. And the difference between socialization and simple confiscation lies precisely in the fact that confiscation can be carried out by means of determination' alone, without the ability to count up and distribute property whereas socialization cannot be brought about without this ability." (Ibid., pp. 300-01.)
Today, when the long path of collective-farm organization is behind us and we have witnessed the "dizzy-with-success" phenomenon, we are better able to appreciate these utterances of Lenin's.
Analyzing the material of the "Left Communists" published in the journal Communist, Lenin gave the following critical appraisal of the "Left Communists":
"Every page of the Communist shows that our 'Lefts have no conception of iron proletarian discipline and how it is achieved; that they are thoroughly imbued with the mentality of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectual." (Works, Vol. 27, p. 296.)
Only four issues of the Communist were published, the June issue being the last.
The opposition of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries to Lenin's policy was far more vigorous.
On May 2-3, 1918, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries headed by Spiridonova and Karelin demanded that the People's Commissariat of Agriculture should be fully controlled by them. Their demand was made in the form of an ultimatum. Lenin consulted the Bolsheviks then working in the Commissariat of Agriculture (V. N. Meshcheryakov, S. Sereda and others). The Bolshevik group was emphatically against it. The Central Committee of the Party rejected this demand of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. The influence of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in the Commissariat of Agriculture was curtailed.
On May 22 Ilyich wrote to the workers of Petrograd:
"Comrades, the other day your delegate, a Party comrade, a worker in the Putilov Works, called on me. This comrade drew a detailed and extremely harrowing picture of the famine in Petrograd. We all know that the food situation is just as acute in a number of the industrial gubernias, that famine is knocking just as cruelly at the door of the workers and the poor generally.
"And side by side with this we observe an orgy of profiteering in grain and other food products. The famine is not due to the fact that there is no grain in Russia, but to the fact that the bourgeoisie and the rich generally are putting up a last decisive fight against the rule of the toilers, against the state of the workers, against the Soviet power, on this most important and acute of issues, the issue of bread. The bourgeoisie and the rich generally, including the rural rich, the kulaks, are sabotaging the grain monopoly; they are disrupting the distribution of grain undertaken by the state for the purpose and in the interests of supplying bread to the whole of the population, and in the first place to the workers, the toilers, the needy. The bourgeoisie are disrupting the fixed prices, they are profiteering in grain, they are making a hundred, two hundred and more rubles profit on every pood of grain; they are disrupting the grain monopoly and the proper distribution of grain by resorting to bribery and corruption and by deliberately supporting everything tending to destroy the power of the workers, which is endeavouring to put into effect the prime, basic and root principle of socialism: 'He who does not work, neither shall he eat.' " (Ibid., p. 355.)
Profiteering was rife in Moscow at the time. I recollect an amusing incident. Ilyich and I went for a ride to Vorobyovy Hills. Few people knew Ilyich by sight at the time, and when he walked about the streets he attracted no attention. I saw a well-fed looking peasant sitting with an empty sack, rolling himself a cigarette. I went up to him and started a conversation, asked him how he was living, how he was off for grain. "We're not bad off at all these days," he said. "We've got lots of grain and do a good trade. People in Moscow are hungry, they're afraid there won't be any bread at all soon. Bread fetches a good price these days, it's a very profitable business. You've got to be careful the way you go about it, though. I've got some regular families I deliver bread to, and get paid cash down without any bother...."
Ilyich came up and listened to our talk. "I've got one family living at Boloto..." the peasant was saying. "Boloto?" I queried. "Where's that?" The peasant stared at me. "Where do you come from that you don't even know Boloto?" As I afterwards found out, Boloto was the name of a market-place (Government House now stands there) where vegetables and apples were sold. "I'm a Petrograder," I said. "I'm new to Moscow."
"Oh, a Petrograder," the peasant said. The word started him off on a new train of thought, and after a pause he added: "That Lenin's a nuisance. I don't understand the man. Muddle-headed, if you ask me. His wife wanted a sewing machine, so he goes and gives orders for all the sewing machines to be taken away in all the villages. My niece had hers taken away too. The whole Kremlin is cluttered up with sewing machines, they say." I avoided looking at Ilyich for fear that I would burst out laughing.
That well-to-do farmer and petty proprietor could not imagine Lenin not helping himself to something or other when he had the chance. This suburban farmer had heard that Lenin had spoken something about machines, and he could not understand why Lenin should be bothering his head about machines.
Daft though this conversation was, it showed what a difficult path confronted the Party and the Soviet Government in the struggle for socialism, the struggle against the rich, the kulaks, against the psychology of the petty proprietor, against inefficiency, ignorance and the economic backwardness of our country.
At the end of May Ilyich wrote a letter to the workers of Petrograd. Not all of Ilyich's articles and speeches are written in the same vein. It all depended on whom they were intended for. His letter of May 22 was written for people in whom he placed his hopes and in whose constructive genius he implicitly believedthe Petrograd workers. He wrote to them:
"Petrograd is not Russia. The Petrograd workers are only a small part of the workers of Russia. But they are one of the best, the advanced, most class-conscious, most revolutionary, most steadfast detachments of the working class and of all the working people of Russia, and one of the least liable to succumb to empty phrases, to spineless despair and to the intimidation of the bourgeoisie. And it has frequently happened at critical moments in the life of nations that even small advanced detachments of advanced classes have carried the rest after them, have fired the masses with revolutionary enthusiasm and have accomplished tremendous historic feats." (Works, Vol. 27, pp. 358-59.)
Vladimir Ilyich wrote to the Petrograd workers about the immense organizing job that confronted them. He attached the greatest importance to organizing work.
"Heroism displayed in prolonged and persevering organizational work on a national scale is immensely more difficult than, but at the same time immensely superior to, heroism displayed in an uprising," wrote Ilyich. "But the strength of working-class parties, the strength of the working class always lay in that it looks danger boldly squarely and openly in the face, that it does not fear to admit danger and soberly weighs the forces in its 'own' camp and in 'the other' camp, the camp of the exploiters. The revolution is progressing, developing and growing. The tasks we face are also growing. The struggle is broadening and deepening." (Ibid., p. 360.)
Ilyich's confidence in the victory of the revolution fired the enthusiasm of the masses.
His own hard work was an example of that heroic organizing job of which he had spoken.
Besides organizing the country's defence against its foreign and internal enemies, and assuming the leadership in the civil war, which had already started by that time, Vladimir Ilyich did a tremendous job in organizing socialist construction. He put through decrees on the nationalization of industry, wrote instructions for the workers of the nationalized enterprises, made reports at the tradeunion congresses, the Supreme Council of National Economy and the First Congress of Councils of National Economy, addressed the Congress of Labour Commissars, delegate meetings of the factory Party units, and conferences of the factory committees, received delegations of the Petrograd, Yelets and other workers, spoke to the mobilized Communists leaving for the front, and at the same time, at the moments of gravest crisison May 25, just before the introduction of martial law in Moscow, he submitted to the Council of People's Commissars a draft decree concerning the inauguration of a Socialist Academy of Social Sciences; on June 5 he addressed a meeting of internationalist teachers, on June 10 he drew up an appeal in connection with the Czechoslovak counter-revolutionary insurrection, and later in the day submitted a proposal to the Council of People's Commissars for enlisting the services of the engineers; two days before the attempt upon his life he addressed the Education Congress where he spoke about the school being a tremendous factor in the building up of socialism.
Every week Ilyich spoke at district meetings, sometimes twice a day or more.
This directional work among the masses bore fruit. It was this, more than anything, that helped to achieve victory.
Rereading the history of the Civil War of 1918 today, when the whole picture had been pieced together and we now have a clear idea of the desperate struggle for existence that was waged by the old landlord and capitalist system, one realizes that the revolution had won because the masses were mustered for the struggle, because a tremendous job of work had been done among them, because the masses had had it brought home to them what the struggle was about, and because that struggle was something near to them which they could understand. In the spring and summer of 1918 Ilyich lived in Moscow and worked at high pressure. Whenever he had a moment to spare he would go motoring outside Moscow with his sister Maria and me, always visiting new places, riding and thinking and filling his lungs with the fresh air. He would take notice of every little thing around him.
The middle peasants sympathized with the Soviet power, which stood for peace and was against the landlords, but they did not think it had come to stay, and were nothing loath on occasion to pass some humorous remark about it.
I remember once driving up to a bridge which had a look of very doubtful security about it. Vladimir Ilyich asked a peasant, who was standing by the bridge, whether the car could safely cross it. The peasant shook his head and said with a chuckle: " 'I'm not so sure. It's a Soviet bridge, if I may be pardoned for saying so." Ilyich often afterwards laughingly repeated the phrase that peasant had used.
On another occasion we were returning from a drive and were about to pass under a railway bridge when a herd of cows coming the other way blocked our path. Those cows coolly ignored all motor traffic and made way for no one on the road. We were obliged to stop. A peasant who walked past looked at Ilyich with a grin and said: "You had to give way to the cows all right."
The peasants did not sit on the fence long, though. In the middle of May the class struggle flared up and made them come off it.
The summer of 1918 was an extremely difficult one. Ilyich no longer wrote anything, and he did not sleep at nights. A photograph of him, taken shortly before he was shot at, shows him standing with a brooding air, looking as though he had just recovered from a serious illness.
It was a very difficult time.
The bourgeoisie, having lost all in the great proletarian revolution, was seeking aid from abroad. Now it took money from the Allies to organize revolts, now it called in the German troops, giving the population over to plunder and anarchy, plunging about from one orientation to another. The Germans helped the Finnish Whites and occupied the Ukraine, the Turks came to the aid of the Azerbaijan Mussavatists and the Georgian Mensheviks, the Germans occupied the Crimea, the British occupied Murmansk, the Allies helped the Czechoslovaks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries to cut Siberia off from the central provinces. Grain shipments from the Ukraine and Siberia were stopped, and Moscow and Petrograd were starving. The ring of fighting fronts kept narrowing.
On May 21, Ilyich wrote in a telegram to the Petrograd workers:
"...The plight of the revolution is critical. Remember, only you can save the revolution, there is no one else....
"Time is short: after painful May will come still more painful June and July and perhaps part of August." (Works, Vol. 27, p. 354.)
The spell of counter-revolutionary uprisings roused and rallied the kulaks. They hoarded their grain. The struggle with famine merged with the struggle against the counterrevolution. Vladimir Ilyich pressed for the organization of the Poor Peasants' Committees, and agitated strongly for the workers to join the Food Detachments, as their revolutionary experience would come in useful in the countryside. The fight for bread at that momenthe told the workerswas a fight for socialism.
It was necessary, Ilyich wrote to the Petrograd workers for "the advanced worker, as the leader of the poor, as the leader of the toiling masses of the countryside, as the builder of the state of toilers to 'go among the people."' He said that the fight-hardened experienced workers were the vanguard of the revolution.
"That is the sort of vanguard of the revolutionin Petrograd and throughout the countrythat must sound the call, must rise in their mass, must understand that the salvation of the country is in their hands, that from them is demanded a heroism no less than that which they displayed in January and October 1905 and in February and October 1917, that a great 'crusade' must be organized against the grain profiteers, the kulaks, the parasites, the disorganizers and bribe-takers, a great 'crusade' against the violators of strictest state order in the collection, transportation and distribution of bread for the people and bread for the machines.
"The country and the revolution can be saved only by the mass effort of the advanced workers. We need tens of thousands of advanced and steeled proletarians, class conscious enough to explain matters to the millions of poor peasants all over the country and to assume the leadership of these millions...." (Ibid., pp. 361, 359.)
The workers of Petrograd responded to the appeal of Ilyich. They organized a "crusade." The poor peasants began to rally closer around the Soviet power. On June 11 the All-Russian Central Executive Committee decreed the organization of the Poor Peasants' Committees. The poor peasants began to look upon Lenin, of whom they had heard so much from the workers and soldiers, as their leader. Ilyich took care of the poor, but the poor also took care of Ilyich. Lydia Fotieva, Ilyich's secretary, relates how a Red Army man of a poor peasant family came to the Kremlin and cut off half of his loaf for Lenin. "Let him eat it, these are hungry times," he said. He did not even ask to see Ilyich, but just asked to have him pointed out to him from a distance when he passed by.
Ilyich got very angry when any attempts were made to create favoured living conditions for him, pay him a big salary, and so forth. I remember how angry he was over a pail of khalva, which Malkov, then commandant of the Kremlin, once brought him.
On May 23 Ilyich wrote a note to Bonch-Bruyevich:
Council of People's Commissars.
"In view of non-fulfilment by you of my insistent demand to notify me on what grounds my salary was raised from 500 to 800 rubles per month as from March 1, 1918, and in view of the obvious illegality of such a rise, which you have made arbitrarily by arrangement with the Secretary of the Council N.P. Gorbunov in direct violation of the decree of the Council of People's Commissars dated November 23, 1917, I herewith severely reprimand you.
"Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars
V. Ulyanov (LENIN)"
(Works, Vol. 35, p. 272).
The Germans concluded the peace of Brest with Soviet Russia and ceased hostilities, but did not abandon their plans for seizing Russia. During the Brest negotiations the German Government had entered into an agreement with the Ukrainian Rada, promising it their assistance in the fight against the Bolsheviks. After occupying the Ukraine and overthrowing the Soviet power there, the Germans dismissed the Rada, too, and set up in its place the tsarist General Skoropadsky as hetmanruler of the Ukraine. The Ukraine virtually became a German colony. Grain, cattle, sugar and raw materials were shipped from the Ukraine to Germany in vast quantities.
The German imperialists did their utmost to fan the flame of civil war. Cossack ataman Krasnov, who escaped to the Don, appealed to the Germans for assistance, and they helped him to raise and rally White Guard Cossack units.
The Germans helped the White Finns to suppress the revolution in Finland and take brutal reprisals against the Finnish revolutionaries.
But the Germans were not the only ones to take aggressive action. At the beginning of April the Japanese and the British landed in Vladivostok.
Already in April a number of anti-Soviet parties had united and formed a Revival League. It consisted of Socialist-Revolutionaries, Cadets, Popular Socialists, Mensheviks and the "Unity" group. The League concluded an agreement with the Entente for Entente troops to be sent to Russia against the Bolsheviks and for the Czech Corps to be used for engineering a coup in Russia and overthrowing the Soviet Government. At the time of Kerensky the Czech Corps had numbered 42,000 strong, and included many Russian reactionary generals and officers. The plan of the revolt was discussed with the French Military Mission by members of the Socialist-Revolutionary Central Committee and representatives of the Siberian Socialist-Revolutionaries. It was decided that the Czechoslovak troops, evacuated to the Far East, would occupy strong points on the Ural, Siberian and Ussuri railways.
At the end of May the Czechoslovaks occupied Chelyabinsk, Petropavlovsk, Taiga railway station, and Tomsk, and at the beginning of JuneOmsk and Samara. At the end of May a White Guard plot sponsored by the League was discovered in Moscow; a revolt had been engineered in the Crimea, and the stage was set for a mutiny in the Baltic Fleet. On June 4 a bourgeois-nationalist government was formed in the Crimea. On June 19 there was a counter-revolutionary revolt in Irkutsk, on June 20in Kozlov and Ekaterinburg, on June 29 a monarchist plot was discovered in Kostroma, and on June 30 a bourgeois government was proclaimed by the Siberian Regional Duma. The Socialist-Revolutionarirs worked hand in hand with the bourgeoisie. On June 8, after the capture of Sarnara by the Czechoslovak Corps, a Constituent Assembly Committee was set up there. On June 19 the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries raised a revolt in Tambov, and the next day assassinated Volodarsky in Petrograd.
The Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, too, took to the ways of counter-revolution.
On June 24 they decided to assassinate the German Ambassador Mirbach and engineer an armed revolt against the Soviet power. On June 27 the British landed in Murmansk. On July 1 White Guard troop-trains formed under the direction of the French Mission were arrested in Moscow. On July 4 the All-Russian Congress of Soviets was opened, and on July 6 Mirbach was assassinated, and a revolt organized in Moscow and Yaroslavl.
Speaking at the Fifth Congress of Soviets on July 5, Ilyich had taken the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries to task for their woolliness, their panic mongering and failure to grasp the situation, but he had not thought them capable of falling so low as counter-revolution.
On July 6 Left S.-R.'s Blyumkin and Andreyev presented themselves at the house of the German Embassy in Moscow and asked for a private audience with Count Mirbach. After throwing a bomb at him and killing him, they escaped to the Cheka detachment under the command of Left S.-R. Popov, which was located in Trekhsvyatiteisky Street. Simultaneously the whole Central Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party moved over there. Head of the Cheka Dzerzhinsky, who went there to arrest the murderers, was himself arrested. Popov's detachment sent patrols out into the nearby streets, who arrested the Chairman of the Moscow Soviet Smidovich, People's Commissar of Post and Telegraph Podbelskv, one of the heads of the Cheka Lacis and others, and seized the General Post Office. The Left S.-R. Central Committee promulgated through- out Russia and the Czechoslovak front a report announcing the revolt in Moscow, and calling for war against Germany. In face of the hostilities started by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries the Council of People's Commissars took military action against Popov's detachment which numbered about two thousand infantrymen with eight guns and an armoured car. On July 8 Trekhsvyatitelsky Street was sealed off and shelled. The Socialist-Revolutionaries attempted to retaliate by opening fire on the Kremlin. Several shells landed in the courtyard. After a brief resistance Popov's detachment withdrew and escaped by way of the Vladimir Road, where they shortly afterwards dispersed. About three hundred prisoners were taken.
After the suppression of the Socialist-Revolutionaries in Trekhsvyatitelsky Street, Ilyich wanted to have a look at the house in which the rebels had set up their temporary headquarters. We drove down there together in an open car. As we were passing the Oktyabrsky Station, we heard a shout of "Stop!" from round a corner. Not seeing who it was shouting, our chauffeur Gil drove on without stopping, but Ilyich told him to pull up. Meanwhile, somebody had started shooting a revolver from around the corner, and a group of armed men came running up. They were our own people. "What's the idea, comrades, shooting from round the corner when you don't see whom you're shooting at!" Ilyich rebuked them. They were greatly put out. Ilyich asked the way to Trekhsvyatitelsky Street. We were allowed into the house without delay and conducted through the rooms. Ilyich had been curious as to why the Socialist-Revolutionaries had chosen that particular house for their headquarters and how they had organized its defence, but he soon lost interest in that question: the house's location and interior arrangements were not of the slightest interest from that point of view. What struck us there were the floors, which were thickly strewn with scraps of torn paper. Apparently, during the fight, the Socialist-Revolutionaries had torn up all their documents.
Although it was late in the afternoon, Ilyich wanted to go for a ride in Sokolniki Park. At a level crossing we ran into a Komsomol patrol. "Stop!" We stopped. "Documents!" Ilyich showed his document reading "V. Ulyanov, Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars." "Tell us another one!" the young men sneered. They arrested Ilyich and took him down to the nearest militia station. There he was immediately recognized, and the men in charge laughed heartily. Ilyich came back, and we drove on. We turned into Sokolniki Park, and as we were driving down one of the roads, we heard shooting again. It appeared that we had been passing a munition store. Our papers were examined and we were allowed to pass with a grumbled remark about our riding about God knows where at unearthly hours. Biding back we had to pass the same youth patrol post, but when the lads caught sight of our car from afar they instantly disappeared.
On July 8 the Fifth Congress of Soviets resolved to expel from the Soviets the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who had supported the revolt of July 6-7. On July 10 the congress adopted the Soviet Constitution and wound up its proceedings.
The situation was extremely difficult throughout July.
The commander of the troops fighting the Czechoslovaks was the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Muravyov. He had sided with the Soviet power after October, had fought the troops of Kerensky and Krasnov, who had been advancing on Petrograd, had fought against the Central Rada, and on the Rumanian front. But when the S.-R. revolt started on July 6-7, Muravyov went over to their side and wanted to turn his troops against Moscow. The units upon which he had been relying, however, refused to follow his lead; he had counted on the backing of the Simbirsk Soviet, but the Soviet withdrew its support; his arrest was ordered, but he put up a resistance and was killed. Simbirsk was shortly afterwards taken by the Czechoslovaks. The latter were advancing on Ekaterinburg, where Nicholas II was kept prisoner. On July 16 we had him and his family shot. The Czechoslovaks came too late to save himthey took Ekaterinburg ion July 23.
In the north the British and French troops seized part of the Murmansk railway.
The Mensheviks of Baku called in British troops.
The White Volunteer Army took Tikhoretskaya, then Armavir.
The Germans demanded that a battalion of their troops should be allowed into Moscow to guard the Embassy.
Desperate though the situation was, Ilyich never lost heart. His mood is best revealed in his letter to Clara Zetkin, dated July 26.
"My dear Comrade Zetkin," he wrote. "Thank you heartily for your letter of June 27 which Comrade Gerta Gordon brought me. I will do everything I can to help Comrade Gordon.
"We are all delighted that you, Comrade Mehring and other 'Spartacist comrades' in Germany are 'with us heart and soul.' This makes us confident that the best elements of the West-European working-class, despite all difficulties, will come to our aid.
"We here are now experiencing what are perhaps the most difficult weeks of the whole revolution. The class struggle and the civil war have penetrated into the depths of the population: everywhere in the countryside there is a cleavage-the poor are for us, the kulaks are furiously against us. The Entente has bought the Czechoslovaks, the counter revolutionary revolt is raging, and the whole bourgeoisie is making every effort to overthrow us. Nevertheless, we firmly believe that we shall avoid this 'customary' (as in 1794 and 1849) outcome of the revolution and defeat the bourgeoisie.
"My sincerest greetings, gratefully yours
Lenin" (Works, Vol. 35, p. 282).
To this was added a postscript:
"The new state seal has just been brought to me. Here is an impress. It reads: Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Workers of all countries, unite!"
The counter-revolutionary revolt continued to rage unabated. The Czechoslovaks captured Kazan, the Anglo-French troops took Arkhangelsk, where a Socialist-Revolutionary Supreme Government of the Northern Region was formed. In Izhevsk the S.-R's launched a revolt; the Izhevsk Right S.-R. troops occupied Sarapul; the Soviet troops abandoned Chita; the Volunteer Army took Ekaterinodar, but the failure of the Moscow and Yaroslavl uprisings caused some vacillation in the ranks of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The fighting between the Germans and the Allies, which started with renewed force, diverted their attention from Russia. On August 16 the Czechoslovaks were defeated on the River Belaya. The consolidation of all our armed forces began to take shape; a number of important organizational measures was taken, and decrees were issued enlisting the workers' organizations to the business of grain purveyance and providing for the organization of harvesting and stop-the-way detachmentsthe grain situation had somewhat improved and the closing down of the bourgeois newspapers had put a stop to public excitation. Agitation against intervention was increased among the foreign workers. On August 9 the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs made an offer of peace with the Allied powers to the Government of the United States.
Feeling that the ground was being cut away from under their feet, the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries decided to assassinate a number of Bolshevik leaders, Lenin among them.
On August 30 Petrograd reported to Ilyich that Uritsky, the head of the Petrograd Cheka, had been assassinated at 10 a.m.
That evening Ilyich, at the request of the Moscow Committee, was to address meetings in the Basmanny and Zamoskvoretsky districts.
Bukharin had been dining with us that day, and during the meal he had kept urging Ilyich not to go. Ilyich had dismissed his fears with a laugh, and, then, in order to have done with the subject, he said that he probably would not go. Maria Ilyinichna had been feeling unwell that day and kept indoors. Ilyich came in to see her dressed for going out, and she started asking him to take her with him. "On no account. You stay at home," he said, and went off to the meeting without taking any guard with him.
We were having a conference on education in the building of the Second Moscow State University. Two days be fore that Ilyich had spoken there. The conference was drawing to a close and I was making ready to go home. I had promised to give a lift to a school-teacher acquaintance of mine, who lived in the Zamoskvoretsky District. A Kremlin car was waiting for me outside, but the chauffeur was a stranger to me. He drove us to the Kremlin, but I told him to take our passenger home first; the chauffeur did not say anything, but on reaching the Kremlin he stopped the car and made my companion get out. I was surprised at the high-handed way he carried things and was going to give him a piece of my mind, when we drove up to our entrance in the C.E.C. courtyard, where Gil, our chauffeur, who always drove us in the car, met me outside. He began telling me that he had driven Ilyich to the Michelson Works and a woman there had shot at Ilyich and wounded him slightly. Obviously, he was trying to break the news to me gently. He looked very upset. "Tell meis he alive or not?" I demanded. Gil said he was, and I ran inside. Our apartment was crowded; strange-looking overcoats hung on the hall-stand, and the doors were all wide open. Next to the hall-stand stood Sverdlov, looking grave and grim. Glancing at him, I decided that it was all over. "What are we going to do?" was all I could say. "It's all been arranged with Ilyich," he said. My worst fears are confirmed, I thought. I had to pass through a small room, but it seemed an eternity to me. I entered our bedroom. Ilyich's bed had been moved into the middle of the room, and he was lying on it with a bloodless face. Seeing me, he said in a low voice after a minute's pause. "You've come, you must be tired. Go and lie down." The words were irrelevant, but his eyes said something quite different: "This is the end." I went out of the room so as not to upset him, and stood in the doorway so that I could see him without being seen myself. When I was in the room I hadn't noticed who was there, but now I saw Lunacharsky in therehe had either just gone in or had been in there before. He was standing at Ilyich's bedside looking down at him with frightened piteous eyes. Ilyich said to him: "What's there to look at."
Our apartment was like a camp. Vera Bonch-Bruyevich and Vera Krestinskayaboth of them doctorswere fussing around the sick man. A dressing-station had been fixed up in the small room adjoining the bedroom, inhalation bags had been brought, medical assistants sent for, and all kinds of phials, and solutions, and cotton wool had appeared.
Our temporary domestic help, a Lettish woman, was so frightened that she locked herself up in her room. Someone got busy in the kitchen lighting the oil-stove, and Comrade Kizas rinsed blood-stained dressings and towels in the bath tub. The sight of her reminded me of the first nights of the October Revolution at Smolny, when she had sat up for nights without getting a wink of sleep, going through the telegrams that had come pouring in from all sides.
At last the surgeons arrivedVladimir Rozanov, Mints and others. There was no doubt about itIlyich's condition was dangerous, his life hung by a thread. When Gil, together with some other comrades from the Michelson Works, had brought him to the Kremlin and wanted to carry him in, Ilyich would not let them. He had walked up to the second floor by himself. Blood flooded his lung. The doctors also feared a puncture of the gullet, and forbade him to drink anything. He suffered from thirst. Shortly after the doctors had gone, leaving a hospital nurse with him, he asked the nurse to go out and call me in. When I came in Ilyich was silent for a while, then said: "Fetch me a glass of tea, will you." "Didn't the doctors say you were not to drink anything," I answered. The trick had not worked. Ilyich shut his eyes, saying: "All right, you can go." Maria Ilyinichna was busy with the doctors. I stood by the door. I went to Ilyich's private office at the end of the corridor three times during the nightSverdlov and other comrades sat up all night there on chairs.
The attempt on Vladimir Ilyich upset not only all the Party organizations, but the broad masses of the workers, peasants and Red Army men. What Lenin meant for the revolution was suddenly brought home to them with special force. The press bulletins concerning his condition were followed with anxiety.
On the evening of August 30 a statement was issued by the Party over Sverdlov's signature concerning the attempt on Lenin's life. It said: "The working class will respond to attempts against its leaders by rallying its forces and by a ruthless mass terror against all the enemies of the revolution."
The attempted assassination of Lenin made the working class close its ranks and work still harder.
The Party of the Socialist-Revolutionaries began to break up.
The day after the attempt on Lenin, a statement was published in the newspapers by their Moscow Bureau saying that the Socialist-Revolutionary Party was not privy to the crime. Already after the July revolt of the Left S.-R.'s its members had begun to withdraw from the party, especially workers. A section of the party calling itself Narodnik-Communists had split away. This section, headed by Kolegayev, Bitsenko, A. Ustinov and others, had been opposed to violent action against the peace of Brest, to acts of terrorism, or to active struggle against the Communist Party. The remaining membership had tended still more rightward and supported the kulak revolts, but their influence was on the wane. The attempt on Lenin intensified this process of disintegration in the Socialist-Revolutionary Party and undermined its influence among the masses still more.
The hopes of the enemies of the Soviet Government were dashed. Ilyich pulled through. The doctors' reports grew more optimistic day by day. They and everyone else who surrounded Ilyich cheered up. Ilyich cracked jokes with them. He was forbidden to move about, but on the quiet, when there was nobody in the room, he tried to sit up. He was eager to get back into harness. At last, on September 10, Pravda reported him to be out of danger, and added a note from him to the effect that he was convalescing and asked people to stop bothering the doctors with phone calls enquiring about his health. On September 16, Ilyich was permitted to attend the Council of People s Commissars. He was so excited and nervous that he could hardly stand on getting out of bed, but he was glad to be able to get back to work at last.
On September 16, Ilyich presided over a meeting of the Council of People's Commissars. Later in the day he wrote a message of greeting to the Conference of Proletkult Organizations. The Proletkult was a great influence in those days. A shortcoming of the Proletkult, in Ilyich's opinion, was that its work was insufficiently linked with the general political tasks of the struggle, that it did enough towards stimulating the consciousness mass, advancing workers to the fore, and preparing them for administration of the state through the medium of the Soviets. In his message of greeting to the conference he made it a point of mentioning the political tasks that confronted Proletkult. Another article written by him a couple of days later was "On the Character of Our Newspapers" in which he urged the newspapers to have a keener eye for what was taking place around them. "Closer to life. More attention to the way the mass of the workers and peasants are in deeds building something new, in their everyday work. More verification of the fact to what extent this new is communistic." (Works, Vol. 28, p. 80.)
Vladimir Ilyich started work by coming straight to grips with the food problem. He took an active part in drafting the decree introducing the tax in kind for farmers. However, he quickly realized that this daily round of intensive administrative work was too much for him, and he consented to take a fortnight's holiday in the country. He was taken to Gorki, the former country house of Reinbot, ex-governor of Moscow. It was a fine house with verandas, a bathroom, and electric lighting, richly furnished, and standing in an excellent park. The ground floor was occupied by the guardsuntil the attempt on his life this matter of a bodyguard had been very haphazard. Ilyich was unused to it, and the guards themselves had but a faint idea of what they were supposed to do. They greeted Ilyich with a speech of welcome and a big bunch of flowers. Both the guards and Ilyich felt exquisitely embarrassed. The surroundings, too, were new and strange to us. We had been accustomed to living in humble dwellings, in inexpensive rooms or cheap boarding-houses abroad, and here, in these rich chambers, we did not know what to do with ourselves. We chose the smallest room to live inIlyich died in that room six years later. But even that small room had three large plate-glass windows and three cheval-glasses. It was some time before we got used to the house. The guards took time fitting themselves into it too. I remember the following incident, it was the end of September, and getting rather cold. The large room ad joining the one we had moved into had two fireplaces in it. We had got used to fireplaces in London, where in most of the houses it is the only form of heating. "Light the fire, will you," Ilyich said. The guard fetched some wood and began looking round for the chimney pipe, but there wasn't any. Well, thought the guards, maybe these foreign fireplaces don't have chimneys. They lit the fire. But that fireplace proved to be there merely for decoration, and was not made to be heated. A fire started in the garret, and had to be put out with water, as a result of which part of the ceiling plaster came down. Gorki afterwards became Ilyich's regular summer haunt. By that time the place had been properly "mastered" for the purpose of relaxation and work. Ilyich took a liking to the balconies and the big windows.
He was rather weak after his illness and it was quite a time before he felt strong enough to go outside the grounds. He was in high spirits, what with the sense of recovering health and the realization that a turning point had been reached in the whole situation. Things at the front were beginning to look up. The Red Army was winning. On September 3 the workers in Kazan rose against the Czechoslovaks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries,who had seized the power. On the 7th the Soviet troops took Kazan, on the 12th Volsk and Simbirsk, on the 17th Khvalynsk, on the 20th Chistopol, and on October 7 Samara. On September 9 the Soviet troops occupied Grozny and Uralsk. Obviously, things had taken a turn for the better. On the anniversary of the Soviet power Lenin rightfully remarked in his speech that the scattered detachments of the Red Guard had now been moulded into a strong Red Army.
We received regular reports at Gorki testifying that the revolution in Germany was gathering head.
On October 1 Ilyich wrote to Sverdlov in Moscow:
"Things have so 'accelerated' in Germany that we must not lag behind. And that is what we are doing. "Tomorrow, a joint meeting must be called of
The Central Executive Committee
The Moscow Soviet
The district Soviets
The trade unions, etc., etc.
"A number of reports should be made on the beginning of the revolution in Germany.
"(The victory of our tactics of struggle against German imperialism, and so forth.)
"Adopt a resolution
"The international revolution has approached in a week to within such a distance that it is to be reckoned with as an event of the immediate future.
"No alliances either with the Government of Wilhelm or the Government of Wilhelm+Ebert and other scoundrels.
"As for the German working-class masses, the German toiling millions, when they started with their spirit of protest (so far only spirit),
we are beginning to prepare for them a brotherly alliance, grain, military aid.
"We shall all give our lives to help the German workers in pushing forward with the revolution which has started in Germany.
1) Ten times more effort in procuring grain (sweep up all stocks both for ourselves and for the German workers).
2) Ten times more enrolment in the army. We must have an army of 3 millions by the spring to help the international workers' revolution.
"This resolution to he telegraphed over the whole world Wednesday night.
"Fix the meeting for 2 p.m. on Wednesday. We shall start at 4. Give me the floor for a 15-minute speech. I shall come down and go back again. Send the car for me tomorrow morning (and tell me on the phone that you agree).
(Works, Vol. 35, pp. 301-02).
This consent was not given, despite Ilyich's earnest request. His health was a matter of great concern. The joint meeting was due to be held on Thursday, the 3rd, and on Wednesday, the 2nd, Ilyich wrote a letter to the meeting. The joint meeting heard the letter and adopted a resolution along the lines suggested by Lenin. This resolution was promulgated by telegraph to all countries and throughout Soviet Russia and published the next day in Pravda.
Ilyich knew that no car would be sent for him, yet he sat by the roadside that day, waiting for it. "You could never tell!"
Unrest was growing among the German workers. Lenin always attached tremendous importance to the theoretical struggle, to the clarity of theoretical positions. He knew that Kautsky, who had written a number of works popularizing the doctrine of Marx and had criticized the opportunist views of Bernstein, enjoyed considerable prestige in Germany, and was therefore all the more upset and shocked at the extracts from Kautsky's article against Bolshevism published in Pravda on September 20. He wrote immediately to Vorovskv, who was living in Switzerland at the time, where he acted as the official representative of Soviet Russia, to the effect that Zetkin, Mehring and the others ought to publish a statement on theoretical principles making it clear that on the questions of dictatorship Kautsky was presenting the case of vulgar Bernsteinism, not Marxism. Ilyich wrote that it was necessary to have his booklet The State and Revolution, in which he deals with Kautsky's reformist platform, translated into German as soon as possible, and asked that a copy of Kautsky's pamphlet The Dictatorship of the Proletariat should be sent to him as soon as it came out, and that all Kautsky's articles on Bolshevism should be sent to him.
During his rest at Gorki, Ilyich undertook the task of exposing Kautsky. The result was his pamphlet The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky. Its last lines were written on November 9, 1918. It ends with the words:
"That same night news was received from Germany announcing the beginning of a victorious revolution, first in Kiel and other northern towns and ports, where the power has passed into the hands of Soviets of Workers and Soldiers' Deputies, then in Berlin, where, too, power has passed into the hands of a Soviet.
"The conclusion which still remained to be written to my pamphlet on Kautsky and on the proletarian revolution is now superfluous."
On October 18 Ilyich had returned to Moscow. On the 23 he wrote to our ambassador in Berlin:
"Convey immediately our most ardent greetings to Karl Liebknecht. The liberation of the imprisoned representatives of the revolutionary workers or Germany is a sign of the new epoch, the epoch of victorious socialism which is now being ushered in both for Germany and the whole world.
"On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)
"Lenin Sverdlov Stalin."
On October 23 when Karl Liebknecht was released from prison, the workers held a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy.
On November 5, 1918, the German Government accused the Soviet representatives in Berlin of having taken part in the revolutionary movement in Germany, and demanded that the diplomatic and consular representatives of Soviet Russia headed by the Soviet Ambassador Ioffe should leave the country immediately. On November 9, Ioffe, who was on his way back to Russia with the embassy staff, was returned to revolutionary Berlin by the Berlin Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers Deputies.
The first anniversary of the Soviet power was celebrated in a spirit of elation. Towards the end of October Ilyich took part in the derailing of an appeal to the Austrian workers in the name of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People's Commissars, and on November 3 he addressed a demonstration held in honour of the Austro-Hungarian revolution. It was decided to hold the Sixth All-Russian Congress of Soviets during the anniversary days. The congress opened on November 6 with a speech by Ilyich "On the Anniversary of the Proletarian Revolution." Later in the day he made a speech at the ceremonial meeting of the All-Russian Central and Moscow Councils of Trade Unions, and at the evening ceremony of the Moscow Proletkult. On the 7th he spoke at the unveiling of the memorial plaque to the fighters of the October Revolution.
On the 7th Ilyich unveiled the Marx and Engels monument and spoke about the importance of their teachings, their foresight:
"We are living in happy times, when this prophecy of the great Socialists is beginning to be realized. We see the dawn of the international socialist revolution of the proletariat breaking in a number of countries. The unspeakable horrors of the imperialist butchery of nations are everywhere evoking a heroic rise of the oppressed masses, and are lending them tenfold strength in the struggle for emancipation.
"Let the memorials to Marx and Engels again and again remind the millions of workers and peasants that we are not alone in our struggle. Side by side with us the workers of more advanced countries are rising. Stern battles still await them and us. In common struggle the yoke of capital will be broken, and socialism will be finally won!" (Works, Vol. 28, pp. 146-47.)
On November 8, 9, 10 and 11 Ilyich was completely carried away by the news of the German revolution. He was continuously addressing meetings. His face beamed with joy, as it had beamed on May 1, 1917. The days of the first October anniversary were the happiest days in his life.
Never for a moment, however, did Ilyich forget what a difficult path still lay ahead of the Soviet power. On November 8 he addressed a conference of the peasant poor of the Moscow Region.
The delegates gathered at the Moscow Conference of the Poor Peasants' Committees looked pleased. One tall delegate, dressed in a blue caftan, stopped before the bust of a scientist as he was going upstairs, and remarked with a smile: "We could do with that in the village." The delegates spoke mostly about what they would take and how they would share it among themselves. Ilyich spoke to an audience of poor individual farmers for whom the questions of collectivization in agriculture, the collective cultivation of the land were not a pressing problem. Comparing the temper among the delegates of the Poor Peasants' Committees with that of the delegates to the Second Congress of Collective Farmers, one is amazed at the progress that has been made, the tremendous task that has been achieved.
Ilyich realized that this was going to be a long job. He clearly saw all the difficulties, but considered it a decisive issue. "The conquest of the land, as every other conquest by the working people, is only secure when it rests on the activity of the working people themselves, on their own organization, their determination and revolutionary steadfastness.
"Did the toiling peasantry have such an organization?
"Unfortunately, they did not, and therein lies the root cause of all the struggle's difficulty." (Works, Vol. 28, p. 153.)
Ilyich indicated the path of organization. It was to get the upper hand of the kulaks and to join forces with the working class.
"...If the kulak is left intact, if we do not get the better of those blood-suckers, we shall inevitably have the tsar and the capitalist back again.
"The experience of all the revolutions that have so far occurred in Europe strikingly proves that the revolution inevitably suffers defeat unless the peasantry gets the upper hand of the kulaks.
"All European revolutions ended in naught precisely because the countryside failed to get the better of its enemies. The workers in the towns overthrew the tsarsyet after a while the old order of things was re-established." (Ibid., p. 153.)
"In former revolutions the poor peasants had nowhere to turn for support in their difficult struggle against the kulaks.
"The organized proletariatwhich is stronger and more experienced than the peasantry (it gained that experience in earlier struggles)is now in power in Russia and is in possession of all the means of production, the mills, the factories, the railways, ships, etc.
"The poor peasants now possess a reliable and powerful ally in their struggle against the kulaks. The poor peasants know that the city is behind them, that the proletariat will help them, is in fact already helping them with every means in its power." (Ibid., p. 154.)
"The kulaks awaited the Czechoslovaks impatiently. They would most willingly have enthroned a new tsar, in order to continue their exploitation with impunity, in order to continue to dominate the farm labourer and to continue to grow rich.
"And salvation was wholly due to the fact that the village united with the city, that the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements of the countryside (i.e., those who do not employ the labour of others) started a campaign against the kulaks and the parasites together with the city workers." (Ibid., p. 155.)
Ilyich goes on to outline the prospects of reorganizing the whole system of rural life.
"The solution lies only in social cultivation of the land.... Salvation from the disadvantages of small-scale farming lies in communes, cultivation by artels, or peasant associations. That is the way to raise and agriculture, to economize forces and to combat laks, parasites and exploiters." (Ibid., p. 156.) November 16, 1918, saw the opening of the First All-Russian Congress of Women Workers, held under the auspices of the Committee of the C.C. of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) for Agitation and Propaganda Among the Women Workers. Inessa Armand, Samoilova, Kollontai, Stael, and A. D. Kalinina worked hard on the organization of this congress. It was attended by 1,147 delegates It was a congress of women workers only, and no peasant women were presentwe had not got to that yet. Neither was the question of the work among the national minorities raised at that congress. In his speech at the congress, however, Ilyich spoke of what was uppermost in his mind, namely, of the village and of how women could be emancipated only under socialism. "Only when we shall pass from small household economy to social economy and to social tilling of the soil," said Ilyich, "will women be fully free and emancipated. It is a difficult task. Committees of Poor Peasants are now being formed, and the time is at hand when the socialist revolution will he consolidated.
"It is only now that the poorer section of the population in the villages is organizing, and in these organizations of the poor peasants socialism is acquiring a firm foundation.
"It has often happened before that the cities became revolutionary and the countryside took action afterwards.
"The present revolution has the countryside to rely on, and therein is its significance and strength." (Ibid., p. 161.)
In every speech he made, Ilyich spoke about the peasantry and the collectivization of the land. In conversation and during our walks he often touched on the subject of Karl Marx's letter to F. Engels in 1856, in which Marx wrote: "The whole thing in Germany will depend on the possibility of backing the proletarian revolution by some second edition of the Peasant War. Then the affair will be splendid....""
Addressing the First All-Russian Congress of Land Departments on December 11, 1918, Lenin said:
"It is impossible to live in the old way, in the way we lived before the war. And the waste of human toil and effort associated with individual, small-scale peasant production can no longer be tolerated. The productivity of labour would be doubled or trebled, the economy of human labour in agriculture and human production would be doubled and trebled, if a transition were made from this disunited, small-scale production to social production. (Works, Vol. 28, p. 319.)
While living in Switzerland I had suffered from a serious form of goitre. An operation and mountain air had checked the disease to some extent, but its aftereffects had told on my heart and undermined my strength. After the attempt on Ilyich's life, the shock of it and the worry over his health caused a serious relapse in my own condition in the autumn. The doctors kept me in bed, gave me all kinds of medicines, and forbade me to work, but it didn't help. There were no nursing homes in those days. I was sent to a forest school at Sokolniki, where all talk about politics and work was taboo. I made friends there with the children, and Ilyich visited me almost every evening, in most cases with Maria Ilyinichna. I lay there during the end of December 1918 and January 1919. The children very soon came to regard me as a close friend and told me about everything that agitated their minds. Some showed me their drawings, others told be how they had gone skiing; a nine-year-old boy was grieved that there was no one to cook dinner for his mother; usually he had done it. He cooked a soup from potatoes, and "fried" potatoes in water; when his mother came home from work she would find dinner ready, waiting for her. There was a little girl at the forest school who had been transferred there from an orphanage. She had picked up some typical habits there, such as worming herself into the good graces of the strict teacher, and telling lies. She had a mother, a prostitute, who lived at Smolensky Market. The mother and daughter were passionately fond of each other. Once the girl told me with tears in her eyes that her mother had come to see her in freezing cold weather with almost nothing on her feet; her lover had stolen her boots and sold them to buy drinks, and her mother had frozen her feet. The girl was always thinking about her mother; she did not eat her bread rations, and put them away for her mother; after dinner she would hunt about for crusts, and if any were left over, would collect them for her mother.
Many of the children told me about their lives. The school had little to do with real life. In the morning the pupils had their lessons, then they went out skiing, and in the evening they made fir-tree decorations.
Ilyich often joked with the children. They became very fond of him, and looked forward to his coming. At the beginning of 1919 (Old-Style Christmas) the school arranged a fir-tree party for the children. With us in Russia the Christmas tree was never associated with any religious rites; it was just an evening party to amuse the children. The children invited Ilyich to the party. He promised to come. He asked Bonch-Bruyevich to buy as many presents as he could for the children. On his way to me that evening with Maria Ilyinichna, his car was held up by bandits. The latter were taken aback when they learned who it was they had attacked. They made Ilyich, Maria Ilyinichna, the chauffeur Gil and Ilyich's bodyguardwhose hands had been engaged holding a jug of milkget out of the car and drove away in it. At the forest school we were all waiting for Ilyich and Maria Ilyinichna and wondering why they were so late. When they reached the school at last they looked rather queer. Afterwards, in the passage, I asked Ilyich what the matter was. He hesitated for a moment for fear of upsetting me, then we went into my room and he told me all about it.
I was glad that he was safe and sound.